Muslims in America: Have you felt under suspicion?

Jahi Chikwendiu WASHINGTON POST Continuing our series of stories on Muslims in America, we turn our attention to the sometimes … Continued

The craziness around Halloween is hard to ignore and as with anything “sacred,” be it a day, a story, an object — it has multiple meanings. These days, as with so much in our polarized public culture, each meaning has its own advocates who ardently believe they have the whole truth.

There are our religious fundamentalists who oppose Halloween because of its pagan origins and occult and satanic symbols and believe the holiday undermines Christian values with its embrace of devils, demons, and goblins. Just as seriously, there are Wiccans who oppose Halloween for its offense to real witches by promoting stereotypes of wicked witches. (Opposition to fun often makes strange bed fellows.)

There are traditionalist Jews and members of other faiths who oppose Halloween because it is a Christian holiday — All Saints Day. There are our simplicity folks who oppose Halloween because they see it as another construction of Madison Avenue that has turned one more holiday into a commercialized ($5 billion) consumption experience. There are our concerned parents who oppose Halloween because of its increasing tolerance of violent images and vandalism.

There are serious Christians who reject the ghost, ghouls, witches, and vampires of Halloween and instead emphasize the Christian tradition of honoring all saints known and unknown. And then there is the majority of parents and children who simply enjoy the candy and costumes, the pranks and trick and treating, and the carved pumpkins and haunted houses of Halloween.

So, not surprisingly, depending on who one is and to what community one belongs and one’s psychological predisposition, Halloween is indeed many things. It is harmless fun or anti-Christian, anti-Jewish or anti-Wiccan, amusingly scary, chillingly violent or crassly consumerist. It is all of these as well as a Saint Fest, a day to honor the dead, a harvest festival, and a psychological release as, around us, nature “dies” for the winter and the day darkens earlier and earlier.

It seems to me that the cultural and spiritual energy surrounding Halloween is directly related to this multiplicity of meanings. (My wisdom tradition teaches that, contrary to conventional understanding, something is sacred not because it has only one specific meaning but because it has indeterminate and inexhaustible meaning.)

In other words, there is a partial truth to each of these meanings and rather than simply dismiss the meaning or meanings we feel are silly or wrong or even dangerous we might try to incorporate some insight or aspect of that meaning, however small, into our take on Halloween.

Personally, I grew up attending a Jewish parochial school that strongly discouraged any participation in Halloween festivities. But my parents, with a bit of reluctance, and quite a bit of pleading from me and my five brothers, treated Halloween as a secular day and permitted us to dress up and go trick or treating with emphasis on the treating rather than the tricking.

But we were reminded that Halloween was not a Jewish holiday and as age appropriate actually learned a little about the origins of the holiday and where we as Jews differed. And there were also some interesting additions to our celebration. Costumes were home-made, not purchased, and there were no hatchet in the head costumes. For every one piece of candy we got to keep we had to give away one piece. (We started with the non-kosher candy!)

And of course there was UNICEF — our celebrating and candy gathering were connected to giving to the less fortunate. One might say that we had fun without the fear and the frenzy — a kind of fun that transcended different faiths and backgrounds — in which our present joy superseded a pagan past, candy trumped creed, and treats trumped theology.

Be Safe and Happy Halloween!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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  • divine0001

    Muslims are treated same as everyone else. There are whole bunch of people under suspicion in a community I know of, they are not muslims. They are mostly WASPS.

    However, I must mention that muslims who follow the teaching of sunni and koran must be viewed suspiciously.

  • divine0001

    Today, I read a news item about muslim community of New York went to celebrate Eid at a park with rides. Women with headscarf (and face completely exposed) were not allowed, not because the management was against scarfs or muslims, but because of the safety rule to prevent head gears from falling on the tracks which may cause accidents. The argument ensued, scuffle broke out.

    No sympathy for muslims. First, their religion that requires headscarf or hijab also requires women to cover their faces. Second, it requires women to stay home. Either of those choices could have been exercised. Instead, they decided to fight against the rules that were in place for years.

    Third, instead of creating ruckus, they could have opted to comply with the rule for the safety of hundreds. But they used the occasion to evoke sympathy, and cry foul. That must not be tolerated.

    I would suspect these people. If they think safety of fellow citizens is secondary to their muslim persona, then in my dictionary they are terrorists (for insisting on endangering the safety of others in name of religion). They must be under the watch.

    Rules and laws came first in USA before any muslims set a foot here. If they cannot stand the laws of the land, go back to where they came from. THEY WON’T.

  • nrnowlin

    In the Holy Bible, Jesus commanded all Christians to love their enemies and to do good to those people who despitefully use them. This is not ambiguous or contextually interpretable. Muslims, on the other hand, are commanded in the Koran to hate their enemies (Christians, Jews, and non-Muslims), and permits faithful Muslims to lie to their enemies, and to kill them if necessary. Abrogation, in the Koran according to Mohammed, makes this permissable and necessary. This why Muslims are under suspicion by non-Muslims. Fundamentalist Shiites and Sunnis read the Koran differently. Not so with the Bible.

  • rexsolomon

    What a lot of crock.

    All you have to do

    is go to an airport

    EVERYONE is under suspicion.

  • BetsyRossAMERICAN

    Patrick Lawrence has it right. I don’t want people to flaunt their religious beliefs. That goes for any religion. Worship however you wish but don’t expect anyone else to appreciate it when it becomes something we have to accommodate.

  • SCAtheist

    You must be reading a different Bible than I have. I guess you missed the OT where murder and ethnic cleansing were the norm.

  • SCAtheist

    Wasn’t there a poll last week where 17% of the Muslim respondents said they knew someone who is radicalized?

    That seems scarey high to me.

  • LarryG62

    Ask the muslims what ther religion teaches about dealing with unbelievers. Then publish the results.
    I dare you.

  • SouthernLady

    The peaceful religion…They get more rights than the Catholics. They can do anything they want. If the Catholics want to put a manger, all heck breaks loose. What a crazed nation this has become.

  • taroil

    All the hype about Muslims being descriminated is nothing but propaganda from a few who just want to show that they represent all muslims

  • caseypaul51

    I’m no fan of religion, but there’s a lot more to disregard from the Quran than there is from the Bible.